The Art of “Negative Capability”: Keats on Embracing Uncertainty and Celebrating the Mysterious – The Marginalian

https://www.themarginalian.org/2012/11/01/john-keats-on-negative-capability/

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On the art of remaining in doubt “without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.”

BY MARIA POPOVA

The Art of “Negative Capability”: Keats on Embracing Uncertainty and Celebrating the Mysterious

AaaDespite his short life, the great Romantic poet John Keats (October 31, 1795–February 23, 1821) endures as one of the most influential creative geniuses humanity has produced. Writing to his brothers, George and Thomas, in a December 1817 letter found in Selected Letters (public library), Keats coins the phrase that has come to be the single most emblematic phrase of his entire surviving correspondence, even though he only makes mention of it once: “Negative Capability” — the willingness to embrace uncertainty, live with mystery, and make peace with ambiguity. Triggered by Keats’s disagreement with the English poet and philosopher Coleridge, whose quest for definitive answers over beauty laid the foundations for modern-day reductionism, the concept is a beautiful articulation of a familiar sentiment — that life is about living

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